By David Henry
I have a confession to make. I am an offensive driver. There. I said it.
I don’t mean that my Old Spice isn’t working. Nor do I mean that grandma is parked on the shoulder clutching her chest because I scared the blue out of her hair.
Let me go back in time.
Back when I was but a rookie, something called defensive driving became very popular. Actually I don’t know if it was started in the mid-’80s but that’s when I became aware of it.
Anyway, there was and still is talk about driving defensively.
On the face of it, it looks good. But for some reason — maybe because I was a high-school jock — the name never sat right with me. Defence implies waiting for someone else to make a move, then reacting. In sports I was always offensive minded, even if I was on defence. You can’t win if you don’t score more than the opposition.
A good defensive back in football watches and predicts what the quarterback is going to do. He or she intercepts the ball and turns the tide. I use this same approach in my trucking career.
Rather than waiting for others to make dumb moves and put my rig and me in jeopardy, I try to predict what will happen.
Let me put this in simple terms.
A – Anticipate What Will Happen
I scan far into the distance, profile the vehicles and drivers around me, as well as the road and weather conditions. I know that if I’m following a big RV wallowing through the Rockies, there is a high probability that they will stop in the middle of the road to take pictures if they see a mountain goat. I also know that the person beside me texting and driving may be having a bad day and is trying to keep track of which lie they told which boyfriend/girlfriend and that they will make erratic moves. I know if I see a pickup truck in Saskatchewan, the probability is that they’ll be running 20 km under the speed limit. I watch weather and road reports, as well as Twitter, so I’m not surprised if they change dramatically. I watch oncoming traffic to see if they have wipers on or if they accumulated any snow. Large bunches of traffic coming my direction signal that there may have been an accident or construction site behind them.
C – Control
I control everything in my power. I give room to the RV and texture, move over well in advance for the farmer, and I scan far ahead for any change in the road or weather. Using all of the data in front of me, I pre-make plans A,B,C and up to Z if I need. I take control of my space on the road. I will not let another vehicle cause me to play defence. People ask me if I get bored on the road. I say I’m too busy to get bored!
T – Truck-On with a Smile
If you Anticipate and take Control you’ll Truck on much happier and relaxed. Let me give you an example: I was driving on some city streets and two trucks from another company were going the same way, in the same traffic. When they reached their destination 30 minutes later they were still complaining on the CB about all of the drivers that cut them off, or were rude or… you get the picture.
While they were playing defense, I was using ACT and had no problems. And I was in a much better mood.
Another story. A co-worker asked me how I got so much done in a day. I told
him that I learned that I made better time by slowing down. He was surprised. I explained that by planning my day and making sure everything was ready before I left with a load, I was in good shape.
I have seen trucks race out of truck stops or away from customers, “Gotta make time!!” Then I see them later on down the road talking to a peace officer or in the next truck stop.
Don’t react to problems, ACT to avoid them.
— David Henry is an LCV owner-operator for Penner International and has been driving for over 25 years.
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